AUG 31, 2016 3:04 PM PDT

Are Figs Full of Baby Wasps?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

It sounds like an urban myth - figs contain the bodies of dead wasps. But in this case, the story is completely true.

Figs and wasps have a strange, mutualistic relationship: Figs rely on wasps to pollinate the flowers that are inside the fruit, and fig wasps need a safe place to lay their eggs. So, fig wasps end up burrowing inside fig fruits to lay their eggs. This process causes the wasps to loose their wings and antennae, which means the female wasps die inside the figs.

Once they're mature, the wasp eggs hatch and male offspring mate with female offspring. Wingless males also fulfill their duties by burrowing tunnels for the female wasps - now pregnant and loaded with pollen - to exit and begin the cycle anew.

So why don't we find wasps in our figs more often? Well, some domesticated varieties of the common figs are seedless and don't require pollination. Others varieties are separated into male and female trees, of which wasps only pollinate the male trees. Even if wasps do end up in the fruit, fruit enzymes easily digest the insect bodies. This means the fig and the wasp eventually become one and the same. Tasty!
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
NOV 07, 2020
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
Scientists have identified a burst of cosmic radio waves- intense flashes of radio emission that last just a few millise ...
DEC 03, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
3-D Printed, Realistic Heart Model for Training Future Physicians
DEC 03, 2020
3-D Printed, Realistic Heart Model for Training Future Physicians
Building a realistic tissue model is critical for training young physicians and surgeons, and yet challenging due to the ...
DEC 12, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Superhighways in Space Enable Super Fast Travel Between Planets
DEC 12, 2020
Superhighways in Space Enable Super Fast Travel Between Planets
Astronomers from Serbia have found that invisible structures created by gravitational interaction in our Solar System ge ...
MAR 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Study Highlights Importance of Chinook Salmon to Endangered Orcas
MAR 09, 2021
Study Highlights Importance of Chinook Salmon to Endangered Orcas
Many issues plague the iconic orcas of the Pacific Northwest United States, including declining salmon populations. ...
MAY 28, 2021
Plants & Animals
Wild Gorillas Adopt Orphaned Babies
MAY 28, 2021
Wild Gorillas Adopt Orphaned Babies
An analysis of over 50 years of data reveals that with the help of their social group, orphaned mountain gorillas do jus ...
JUN 05, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Did Heat from Asteroids Provide the Building Blocks for Life on Earth?
JUN 05, 2021
Did Heat from Asteroids Provide the Building Blocks for Life on Earth?
Researchers from Kobe University in Japan have found that heat generated by the impact of small astronomical bodies coul ...
Loading Comments...